25 July 2011 (Written on 27 July)
Few things are as unique than waking up in a tent and hearing the unique sound of semi-trailer downshifting to pass another semi-trailer. I think one of their horns went off as well. Later in the day, I noticed I could see the semis when they went by. As I mentioned in my description of Day 6, this campground was a little less cozy than most. There was a junk pile within view, a barbed wire fence about 10 feet away, but there was a horse behind that fence that came by and said hi a couple of times.
I needed to charge my laptop, so I walked to where I thought the camp store would be. It was unusually difficult to find, since there was no store. It turns out this campground is primarily a marine repair or sales place. My guess is that people slowly asked if they could spend the night, until it became a full campground, sort of.
I was just about packed up when I noticed the sky had cleared, a lot. In that situation, I must put on sun-block. As I did, a guy across from me, in a camper, said “You’re gonna need a lot of that today.” I responded that I hope so. His name was James, and he used to be a trucker in the US, really enjoyed it. He told me how he was paid to travel in the States. One time James was traveling through Nevada and he drove by a standing vertical rock. He stopped his rig, walked to the rock, and sat on it for a while, thinking back to the Native Americans that did the same. (In a few days, I describe a similar situation sitting in a ruined castle, which is actually where I’m sitting now since I’ve gotten behind in my daily descriptions.)
I asked James if heard of Garrison Keiller. James told me he used to rarely miss an episode. When I told him that Garrison called my town, Holdingford, the most “Lake-Wobegon-Like” town, he smiled and told me to wait for a moment while he got something from his camper. He literally jogged off. I kept on packing. When he came back, he showed me a DVD he recently bought at a second hand store. It’s the movie A Prairie Home Companion. While we were talking, James agreed to charge my laptop. He also invited me for coffee, but I told him I had to get going. When I left, I told James I had one final thing to tell him. “Do good work and keep in touch.” Even mediocre campgrounds have fun people to talk with.
A couple miles down the road, I saw a guy walking away from the bushes by the road with a plastic container. This time of the year, that means he was picking blackberries. I stopped my bike where he came from, picked a few berries, and gobbled them down, and repeated that for about 10 minutes. I do like fresh fruit. A guy drove by in his car, rolled down his window, and said, “Well done, good for you.”
Early in the afternoon, I crossed a beautiful suspension bridge into Wales, my first time here. It’s a mile or two long, with a lane for bikes that had a large metal barrier from cars. The day was sunny and calm, so I really enjoyed peddling over that bridge. The best way I can describe Southern Wales is to say it’s a relaxed forest, just about forces you to relax. It was also surprising flat or downhill. My GPS said I was at -57 feet at one point.
I was enjoying the view of the forested hills when I saw a beautiful ruined abbey. I don’t know how old it is, but it had to be closer to be a couple of hundred years old. Still, the architecture, arches, and columns were amazing. It’s called Tinturn Abbey. If you have a moment, look for it on Wikipedia or google it.
I wanted to tour the place because I really enjoyed ruined sites. Being there makes me see and feel life from hundreds of years ago. Unfortunately, there are a few tasks from work I really needed to finish, so I found a place in a café nearby that wifi. I sat there for about 2 hours working on some training I need to give when I get back to work. It was tough not seeing the abbey and missing the cycling time, but we all have to take care of our day job. I hope to return to Tinturn Abbey later this year or early next.
As usual, I was pretty shot by the time I found the sign pointing me to the youth hostel, at Welsh Bicknor. It’s always good to see that sign. It means that I’ll be in a shower soon. In this case, it wasn’t so soon. The hostel at Welsh Bicknor is on top of, what Americans would call, a bluff. The road is full of potholes and spirals up the bluff, so I was pushing my bike, again. When I finally reached the hostel, I realized that it’s layout is the only place that can rival the streets of London, in terms of direction and organization. I had to ask 3 times how to find the bike shed. On my last attempt, two other cyclists were looking at my bike, Steve and Simon. I said hello and Steve commented that he was just admiring my bike. That’s always fun to hear. They were cycling end-to-end from north to south, the opposite of me. We ended up having some fun active conversations about American and British politics. Steve had studied economics and gave an impressive analysis of current and recent issues. Simon plays and teaches guitar, and really made me laugh a few times. Both also asked me some intriguing questions about the US, and I tried to do the same with them, about Britain. Once again, I could have talked for hours with the people I met in a hostel, but I had to keep to my tasks, so I could leave on time the next day.
Steve, the people you are meeting indeed seem interesting. I admire your self discipline to try to keep a schedule. I hope you get to take a more leisurely trip sometime.-Kate